For 20 years, Samantha Brown has traversed continents, experienced culture, and tasted adventure applying her singular brand of warmth and inclusion along the way. Her latest project is Places to Love, which airs on PBS. For the month of March, all episodes are available online.
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Samantha visits one of the most diverse and underrated cities in the United States: Houston, Texas. From art cars to craft beer to soul-inspiring music, Samantha meets some of the most extraordinary people who guide her through the city’s unique offerings, like GONZO247, a graffiti artist turned local celebrity; and 2017 James Beard Award Winner, Chef Hugo Ortega.
From an Alpine Garden on an idyllic mountaintop to going deep underground experiencing the Cheese Grotto in Gstaad, biking through the waterfall covered valley of Lauterbrunnen and finally floating down the icy cold Aare River in Bern: Samantha has a most adventurous journey.
Samantha finds out the difference between a Brooklyn egg cream and a Manhattan egg cream when she visits Brooklyn and meets a “jerk” at a local soda fountain. From visiting the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard to sampling whiskey at New York City’s oldest distillery, to tasting unique foods at the largest weekly open-air food market in the USA, Samantha takes the opportunity to understand Brooklyn.
There is a certain mystique about the Far East, as Samantha soon discovers when she travels to Shanghai, China. Samantha visits the ancient water town of Feng Jing and she takes an Art Deco walking tour along the historic Bund, where she visits a knife and scissor shop on Nanjing Road and learns the art of paper cutting. She ends her trip with a visit to the historic Peace Hotel.
Samantha has the pleasure to travel to one of the most unassuming cities in that of Huntsville, Alabama, where she gets to float in space like an astronaut, see a full-scale Apollo rocket and meets Alex McCool, a national treasure who helped put man on the moon. Samantha also ventures out to a soul food restaurant, serving arguably the best fried chicken in the South.
Samantha starts her trip to Vancouver off trekking beautiful Stanley Park. From there, she takes flight in a classic floatplane to enjoy a stunning tour of the city, followed by landing on a mountain lake. Back into the city, Samantha visits the unique shops of Granville Market, and gets a chance to taste the local salmon at a First Nations restaurant.
There is a big difference between Texas and Texas Hill Country, and Samantha finds this out quickly when she takes to the road exploring these legendary lands in search of her favorite wildflowers, gets to taste fine cuisine at a farm-to-table German bistro, and shakes-a-leg the historic Gruene Hall, Texas’ oldest dance hall.
From Monterey to Big Sur, Samantha travels through the Central Coast of California. She learns about underwater sea life at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, visits the “Artichoke Center of the World”, dines at a Mexican restaurant serving up sustainable seafood and local organic produce, enjoys wine tasting at a boutique vineyard, and ends her trip on an electric bike ride along California’s Route 1.
Samantha travels to the ancient city of Xi’an, China. Feeling a little jet-lagged, Samantha stops off a local health clinic that has been practicing for over 500 years using traditional Chinese medicine. Along her journey, Samantha rides a bike atop the ancient City Wall, visits the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Terracotta Warriors and attends a spectacular outdoor performance.
Samantha travels to the Northwest coast of Ireland where she starts an epic adventure in County Donegal. She hikes up the sea cliffs of Slieve League, herds sheep on a local farm, and learns about the dying craft of wool-weaving. Topping off her County Donegal experience, Samantha visits famous Leo’s Tavern, where she meets Irish celebrity, Moya Brennan of the band Clannad.
Samantha travels to Orange County in Southern California and meets legendary surfer, PT Townend, who discusses the origins of surfing. Along her journey, Samantha takes a ride to Balboa Island on the oldest privately owned ferry in the USA, learns about the vibrant Vietnamese community in Westminster, and visits the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach.
From immersive to interactive, Montréal is a city that puts on a show of sheer artistry in practically everything that this city is involved with. From hidden-alleyway bicycle tours to the French-Canadian version of Little Italy to its world famous Cirques Festivals to a distiller making gin out of locally sourced botanicals, Montréal both surprised and inspired Samantha in her travels.
From Hood River to Fossil to Bend, Samantha and her family take in the magnificent scenery and explore some of the most intriguing stops along the way. She also learns how to drive an authentic Model T car, and visits a real-working ranch, where she gets to herd Black Angus cattle while her husband and twins get to dig for fossils.
Samantha strolls through Hong Kong’s Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, learns how to play the generational tile-based game, Mahjong. She visits the Kung Wo Bean Curd Factory where she learns about the process of making tofu.
Samantha visits The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens, and historic Joshua Tree National Park. She learns how to play the popular local sport FootGolf, and goes on a Mid-Century Modern tour of Palm Springs.
The Valais Region is home to Barryland, where Samantha visits the living museum that serves as a breeder for the famed St. Bernard dogs. In Geneva, Samantha visits the historic Beau Rivage Geneva hotel, and in Nendaz Samantha takes a gondola ride to the top of the Alps.
Samantha visits the New Mexico Capitol Art Collection; hikes to the peak of Dale Ball Trail #9 overlooking the entire city. Next, she navigates the Margarita Trail of Santa Fe at the legendary Cowgirl BBQ.
Samantha begins her journey on a tour in Yeonnam-Dong, a re-purposed green space filled with a resurgence of diverse restaurants and coffee shops. Next it’s on to the Korean Stone Art Museum and strolls through the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival.
Samantha is instantly engulfed in Cajun and Zydeco music at the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. The journey continues with a kayak tour through the local swamps.
Samantha’s epic cruise along the Rhine River includes a stop at Freiburg, Germany, which is the gateway to the Black Forest. Other stops include Strasbourg, France and the Petite France neighborhood, and the iconic Heidelberg Castle.
Samantha’s Paradise Coast adventure includes a kayak tour in the salt-waters of Everglades National Park. She visits the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, and then meets Clyde Butcher, the Ansel dams-esque photographer of the Everglades.
Samantha experiences the revival of the once earthquake devastated city of Christchurch. She begins by exploring the Gap Filler initiatives, which are innovative installations that temporarily fill the gaps. She visits Akaroa Harbor, and then visits a local farm that protects the endangered Pohatu penguins.
Baltimore is more than a city. It’s a tapestry of tight neighborhoods, giving travelers an exceptional diversity of experiences. This city boasts resilience and a DIY spirit that’s infectious. Yes, Baltimore has overcome incredible challenges, but what should be more well-known and revered is its place in American history, and its unique brand of easy going urban hospitality.
With all the experiences we can have with food, enjoying a meal with others is truly one of the best– no fancy linens or fine china needed. When traveling, the opportunity to have locals share their food with us is something special. When you travel, food is used both to seek comfort, as well as to get us out of our comfort zones. Here are some of my favorites from around the globe.